What to do when a wound won’t heal

What to do when a wound won’t heal

Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves. Over time and with the right care, most skin wounds will heal.

But what if the wound doesn’t heal?

The skin is your body’s largest organ and accounts for six to eight pounds of body weight and 20 square feet on the average person. Fundamentally, your skin is a protective layer. It is your body’s first line of defense against germs and everything else in the external environment.

When your skin has a wound that isn’t just a paper cut — actually it’s a more severe injury, such as a severe burn, ulcer or a crush injury — you may need to see a wound care specialist.

The problem of chronic, severe wounds is pervasive. Chronic wounds affect 6.5 million people and cost more than $25 billion annually, according to one study published in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration.

According to the study, the most common types of chronic wounds include:

Pressure ulcers — This wound occurs when excessive friction injures the skin and the underlying tissue. It usually affects people who are immobile, like those who are bedridden or wheelchair bound.

Diabetic foot ulcers — “Often times, people with diabetes lose feeling in their feet. So, they may have a wound and not know it until it becomes truly problematic,” says Dawn Falls, registered nurse and Wound Care Center Coordinator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

Ulcers are a huge risk for the estimated 23 million people in the United States with diabetes, according to the study. Up to one in four people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer, and about 12 percent of them will have to have their foot amputated because of it.

Venous leg ulcers — These are shallow wounds that develop because of poor blood flow to the leg veins. These ulcers tend to recur four or more times in about a third of people who get them, usually adults aged 65 or older, the study says.

The problem with wounds that won’t heal
Aside from pain and discomfort, chronic wounds can become inflamed or infected. If the wound goes untreated, it can grow, causing the inflammation and infection to spread. Ultimately, this could lead to an amputation or death, the study explains.

Many patients delay seeking medical treatment, but Falls recommends that patients who have a wound of any kind should seek professional treatment if the wound is not responding to at-home remedies after four weeks. “A wound care facility can offer more advanced treatment options, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy,” she says.

Hyperbaric therapy consists of exposing the patient’s body to 100 percent oxygen at a higher pressure than normal. Because wounds need oxygen to heal properly, exposing a wound to 100 percent oxygen can help speed up the healing process.

“I tell all of our patients the same thing, though,” Falls adds. “Your skin is your body armor. You need to take great care of it.”

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  1. Wow, there are so many different types of chronic wounds to be aware of. It is important to see your doctor if you have a wound that isn’t healing.

  2. HBO therapy provides extra oxygen to support the growth of new blood vessels that replace vessels damaged by diabetic ulcers, radiation injury, soft tissue damage, and chronic, nonhealing wound.

  3. I have a open wound just below my left eye about as big as a quarter it’s been there about 2 years it starts to get better then it goes bad again it’s back and forth I keep it clean keep it covered during the day at night it’s uncovered when it’s covered I use just a little Neosporin triple ant. I don’t have insurance or money for a doctor I’m starting to get worried my family says you need to do something please help THANKS. RONNY DIRTR16@GMAIL.COM

    • Hi Ronnie, I was just at a Dr.’s office yesterday taking care of my patient for her foot wound care. When we asked about using Neosporine to apply on her wound the nurse said that Neosporin is NOT good to use long term because it has been found to make wound condition worse. There is something in Neosporin that can make wounds irritated and it’ll make wounds not typically heal and REstart its condition again. So when you said, your wound has been going on for 2yrs, that just came to mind. Maybe try some other antibiotic or really see a doctor now since this is close to your eye.

  4. My friend Terrance a young man of 25 years of age who lives in the Seychelles Islands has a wound on both his feet which won’t heal. He is not diabetic and apart from his foot he is in perfect condition. The local hospital cleans his wounds with salt water and binds them to keep them clean – do you think the hyperbaric treatment could help him? I took a photo of one of his wounds – has had it for 3 years.
    If you give me your email I can send you the photo.

  5. I fractured my ankle about 4 years ago and ever since then I’ve had a large wound on my leg that won’t heal… every time i’ve been to the doctors or the hospital they’ve told me to put cream on it and wear a compression stocking, ive taken loads of antibiotics too as it won’t heal and constantly gets infected. The worst thing about it is the itching that drives me crazy… it’s been 4 years and im just about ready to grab a hacksaw and chop it off myself!

  6. I looked down in the shower one morning and there was a wound on my leg red and raw about as big as a two pound piece. that was near the end of September, now its the 7th of November. I get it dressed twice a week and with different nurses as mine is only available once a week. She now says it is an ulcer and wants me to wear a compression stocking. The Doctor had said that I had a good pulse and I am an active person who walks and before this used to swim 30 lengths non stop, twice a week. -of course water exercise and showers are now out of the question, but I still am on my feet a lot and walk but I miss my swimming. When I last wore a compression stocking on an aeroplane, it made my leg ache worse and especially on exercising. I am 66 but don’t really feel ‘elderly’ or have an elderly lifestyle.Some weekends I walk extensively and fast with my children and Grandchildren.I still don’t know why I have this wound or what it is. I am not diabetic(had tests).I had some lymph glands removed after two lumpectomies, which can cause problems,but the ankle is not swollen or lymphoedema looking, or feeling…

  7. My mom has a stoma on her abdomen she has had from last 20 years. Her bladder was removed due to cancer and she is in complete remission. This year she has developed a wound very close to her stoma . It has gotten bigger it is the size of a nickel or quarter. Because it was so close to the stoma and believe it is irritated when she has to change the appliance covering her stoma every three days. I don’t think it ever get a chance to heal. It bleeds and in the urine comes out of where she changes her stoma and I’m afraid that this is going to cause a big infection but yet the wound doctors here say I don’t know what to do . That is really unacceptable in my eyes for a doctor to say that. If anyone knows of anyone that could help my mom in the toms River New Jersey area please get in touch with me . 732 773 7451

  8. I want the best doctors. .am in south Africa I got big wound

  9. I have a road burn on my ankle for 4 weeks now that wont heal. During the day a clear fluid leeks out and sometimes pus that stinks. I’ve been soaking it in salt baths, covering it during the day and letting it air out at night. I clean it with peroxide and rubbing alcohol. I can feel it throbbing and it hurts worse at night.

  10. I delivered my baby thru cs last march 31. My wound got infected and it is not yet healed up to date. It is almost 3 months but I can’t see any improvement yet though I have tried variations of medications recommended by my ob. Today, I am using dakin solution for my wound after my ob debrided my wound. How Long will it take to heal my wound using dakin solution? According to my ob that would be the “last resort” to heal my wound. Is there any other medication that can help my wound to get healed if dakin solution failed?

    • Korri, after 4 weeks if your treatment has not resulted in any improvement it is time to seek medical attention. Do NOT let guilt or any shame you may feel for not seeking medical attention sooner prevent any further delay.
      In todays’ wound care standard it is best to maintain certain amount of moisture to wound to promote optimal and proper healing. There arw so many wonderful websites out there discussing just this very subject “WBP” Wound Bed Prep. Look at professional sites that mention patient teaching. Here they will explain things ini a way he lay person will understand wounds how the body heals wounds and how wound care therapy can help the healing process when it becomes stalled. Also they will discuss the wonderful new topical medicines and the many types of wound dressing used together will stimulate good healthy tissue as the non viable wound tissue is drawn away without discomfort. Some of these dressing can stay on 3 to 5 days ornup to seven depending on your wound signs of infection and tyoe of wound.

  11. I have a deep cut on my shin that required 8 stitches. They were removed at 13 days. Four days later, the cut opened up. My pcp used steri-strips to close it again. Area still has a bloody discharge. Very red and swollen. Very painful. It looks pretty gross. I was told to keep it dry.

    What else can I do to speed the healing? It looks worse than the day I cut it!

  12. I had a stomach ulcer that required multiple surgeries to repair. This was 3 years. I have a surface wound that won’t heal. Now it is growing and draining a greenish fluid and hurts really bad. Any advice?

  13. I scratched my lower leg on an aluminum ladder about
    4 months ago. It has now become nickle size open wound. Very sore, red around it and will not heal.
    Had staff develop, have taken antibiotics per 2 months
    Doctor prescribed. Is not getting better.

  14. My father has an oppen wound on his left leg for over 38 years. He is the one who clean it like twice a week we ve tried so hard with him to see a doctor but he doesn’t want to cause he is afraid that they may cut his leg also the hospitals in my country are not really good . Its my dream to see his wound healing i live here in USA now and i really wanna bring him here for treatement . Is there any adivces than you can give me please i really need help. Thank you so much !

  15. My brother has diabetes, had toe amputation, wound will not fully heal after several attempts at IV antibiotics for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, moderate as well as Wound Vac. Any advice, please.

  16. I had a rashes at the upper side of ancle in left foot in the month of december when i saw after few days in the month of Jan 2018 18th I went to the doctor she gave antibiotics for 5 days i had it again I went to the doctor on 23rd Jan they gave again another antibiotics for 5 days still it is not healing I am not a diabetic even though I had sugar test all report is ok now I the wound is excreating pus so I took the pus sample to pathalogy lab on16th mar 2018 for culture test and sensitivity test and the report will be received on 19th march i.e.ihave not yet received my report so please advice what else to do

  17. I have had a rash on my lower left leg for over a year. Have seen 8 different doctor and had numerous tests done.. The cause was never determined. Two months ago I had a toenail permanently removed, and it has not yet healed. I am not diabetic. Any ideas? Is it likely there is a connection between the rash and the toenail?

  18. Hi Doc I had an operation in 2016 August on my both leg ankle and since then the wound is responding too slow tried a number of antibiotics but it’s taking too slow I even did a skin grafting last year December bt it don’t work am continuing with the dressing with antibiotics please help me I get out of this I miss wearing closed shoes


  20. In July I assisted a Very Seriously injured man after a Horrible car accident. While trying to help him he actually torn open my arm trying to get back into the car……It has still not healed completely. I was treated at an emergency room but they only used steri strips. I personally thought that the skin torn wasn’t viable, but they obviously did. This was the day after the accident. Please help, as I cannot find a Dermatologist that will accept my Medicaid as payment in full. Am disabled and on fixed income, Age is 59.

  21. i’m seeking help for my bacterial foot infection. it’s been 6 months and my foot won’t heal. please help.

  22. Hi ,I had a surgery on my breast actually it was a lump removal.today is exactly one month after the surgery but the wound hasn’t healed
    One minute it’s healing ,the next minute it isn’t
    I had a discharge and now the blood hasn’t stopped flowing it just reduced
    Please help

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.